Thursday, October 12, 2017

California Wine Grape Research

So it was time to check on more California research. This time in wine grapes.  Wine grapes are grown in almost every state.  But California maintains the premium wine grape reputation.  AgroLiquid is already applied to wine grapes there.  But we wanted more.  So we have been working with a contract researcher on wine grape fertility on a large field of Chardonnay grapes.  This is the second year of this experiment, and the effects of the fertilizer treatment should be expressed now.  Here we see Dylan and the researchers looking at a plot.  The grapes were actually harvested a couple weeks prior to this visit.
Grape fertility is pretty much multiple applications through the growing season.  The method of fertilizer application to the plots is pretty ingenious.  Each plot is six vines, or individual grape plants.  Liquid fertilizers are commonly applied through the drip irrigation line.  So they have a cone tank that applies the plot fertilizer to those six vines of a plot only.  There are four replications, so they move around the site to make the applications.  I also notice that the West facing side of the vines are larger than the East facing side. You can see that in the picture below.  But it's nice that the research is placed in a real vineyard.
 The rows next to the plot rows had not yet been picked by the vineyard crew.  But you can see what the mature bunches look like.  They harvest the grape bunches from the middle four vines of each plot.  I was surprised that they were picking over 400 bunches from the four vines.  Wow.  That's almost as hard as picking strawberries.  They took weights and also a Juice Panel which tested the juice for various parameters.  Well I recently received the results, and the AgroLiquid had the highest yield.  There is plenty of data to review, so I'll get right on that. Look for these results in the Research Report.
Leaving the vineyard and headed for Fresno.  Passed by some dry, yet scenic landscapes.  No really.  It looked just like that.
Well that's pretty much it for my most recent California visit. I always leave anxious to return. And I will.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Strawberry Fields

So the next day Dylan and I headed South to Santa Maria.  It is actually on the Pacific coast, although didn't make it to the beach.  But in many ways it was better.  We met up with Frank who is a PCA with Retail Partner Santa Maria Valley Crop Service (www.smvalleycropservice.com).  Frank showed us some fields where AgroLiquid had been used on some strawberry fields. 
 Now if you are ever going to do some field checking on some strawberries, make sure it's when they are ripe and being picked.  That is the best way to check.  And I can say that the this field with AgroLiquid looked and tasted great.  The liquid fertilizer is applied during the season through drip tape under the plastic bed cover. 
 Strawberries are one crop that is experiencing a boom right now. As we learned, they are normally finished by this time of year.  But good price and demand has kept them picking still.  Heck, they are so good I'd pick every last one.  Here is an AgroLiquid field being picked while we were there.
 Now here is a field of organic strawberries.  We didn't know what the nutrient program was, but they sure weren't as robust as the previous field.
Well AgroLiquid to the rescue.  You probably know that we have C-Tech which is an OMRI certified organic product containing beneficial natural microbes plus organic carbon.  This field is on the other side of that fence on the left from the above field, and looks much better.  That's because it had 2 qt/A of C-Tech applied through the drip lines several weeks ago.  The plants were certainly bigger and had more pickable strawberries.  We had a research project during the summer on organic strawberries not too far from here and saw a similar response and higher yields with C-Tech.  That's why we do research on our products: to confirm performance before going to the grower.
The roots from the C-Tech treated strawberries on the left were also bigger which enabled the plant to feed better.
 After that we went to another set of fields.  This one was huge.  Dylan and Frank walk the line where fertilizer programs are compared.  They will keep track of yields.  Frank said that some of these strawberries are headed for Hong Kong!  That's amazing.  I wonder how they keep them fresh for that long trip?  As good as strawberries are, they aren't exactly good for very long.  That's why they should be consumed the day of purchase and repeat the next day.
 This field was also being picked by a crew that was really hustling.  The field pickers would fill baskets in a box and one person would run the box to the  packing operation line around a fifty to a hundred feet away.  Then run the empty box back out to the pickers.  And repeat over and over.  Now that's work.  I, on the other hand, was picking them one at a time.  But I wasn't running anywhere.  But God bless those field workers. 
Now we couldn't really see any differences from fertilizer programs, which is good I guess.  We will see in the end.  On another note, it's terrible all of the wildfires currently plaguing California.  We can only hope that they get controlled and soon.  And hope that the people and places affected get the help they need.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

California Citrus Research

So my other purpose for the trip to CA was to check up on Research trials.  We have a foliar fertilizer experiment in citrus, or more specifically in Mandarin oranges.  This is South of Stockton, where AgroLiquid's California manufacturing plant is located.  Now who doesn't love a sweet, easy to peel Mandarin?  If your hand is  raised, please leave.  This is kind of a different situation as this is a sizable ranch with citrus and tree nuts, but the manager also does contract research.  
Well as luck would have it, there were Agro reinforcements. Here we see me, SAM Armando, the other CA SAM Dylan, chemist Chris and Agronomist JW.  Obviously this is overkill for personnel, but we were travelling on different missions, and met up here to see what's up in the research trial.  So it was a good thing to collaborate and exchange thoughts.  Which we did. I now see that the guys from Michigan are wearing short sleeves.  I guess we didn't exchange thoughts on that.  One of the research assistants showed us around and took this pic.
I was here last March to set up the trial and the trees were just about to flower.  Now you can see the oranges, although green.  They will be harvested in December.  I probably won't be back, but would love to take a bite of some sweet  Agro Fruit.  You can see the drip irrigation hose on the ground.  Without water and nutrients from that: no trees.  Very dry here.
We looked at the different tree plots.  Of course our unbiased eye thought the Agro foliar looked best.  We are testing two different foliar programs.  One simple and one more complex.  While simple is easy, is it as good as the complex one?  Time will tell.    
There were four foliar applications applied through the growing season, the last being in September as the fruit is gaining size.  Foliar fertilizer applications are quite common in citrus, so we look for a new market there.  Chris and JW wonder what Dylan is doing across the way in those other trees.  What do you think those trees are?
Those are pistachio trees.  I took this pic last March  from pretty close to the above pic.  Unlike the pistachios, citrus trees are evergreens, and keep their leaves.  The trees all look bigger now in late September.  Now who doesn't love to eat a handful of delicious pistachio nuts?  If your hand is raised, well you know the drill.
So we hope to have research in pistachios and other tree nut crops in the future.  There is AgroLiquid used on these crops, but research would be good support for wider use.  And who doesn't support wider use?

Monday, October 9, 2017

California Crop Visit Begins

So sorry the blog has been absent for awhile.  Lots of busy-ness going on at AgroLiquid HQ.  But to get caught up...a couple weeks ago I went out to The Golden State: California.  I flew in to Sacramento late on a Sunday night.  I guess the baggage handlers had already gone home and you had to sort your own luggage from this cart.  Whew!
The next day SAM Armando picked me up and we stopped by a grower south of Sacramento in the San Joaquin valley who has been using AgroLiquid on his wine grapes.  The grapes had been picked some time ago, and did quite well. They are mostly using Sure-K through the season by drip irrigation and foliar, as potassium is limiting in these soils.
Here are some olives that also have received AgroLiquid and mostly Sure-K.
They will be harvested later this fall.  Most of the CA olives go to make olive oil.  In fact this grower said that the processor has entered oil from his olives in contests and they have done quite well as well.  So when buying olive oil, make sure it is from California.  You likely have encountered the term Extra Virgin Olive Oil on the bottle.  What's up with that?  Well it is produced from high quality olives with no defects, and is mechanically crushed without the use of chemicals or solvents.  So it is just pure oil.  Further, it tests low in acidity (less than 0.8% oleic acid).  It also must pass a taste test.  Virgin olive oil has less than 2% acidity.  Extra Virgin olive oil is best used on food that is directly consumed like on salads.  So there.
Later that day Armando and I had a meeting with several PCA's from one of our Retail Partners: Mid Valley Agricultural Services.  They have several locations in the valley.  I reported last spring about a meeting in the Linden location.  But we were now in Livingston.  We went over products and recommendations for different crops.  Although mainly for dairy alfalfa and silage corn.  So I was comfortable doing that.    Visit their website at: www.midvalleyag.com.  Admittedly, you will see that they offer a number of crop nutrient sources.  But they have shown good growth in AgroLiquid in the past year and we hope to make it the first option for Valley growers in the future.
So there is plenty more to report on my trip to CA that will be in the Land of Liquid in days to come.

(FYI: California PCA's are Agricultural Pest Control Advisers.  This is a certification that must be attained by agriculturists to make pesticide recommendations.  It happens that PCA's are also the one's making fertilizer recommendations, as well as numerous other recommended practices.   So that leaves me out of officially making pest control recommendations.  But it was good to go over the AgroLiquid programs.)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

First Soybean Harvest at NCRS

So the first soybean test was harvested at the NCRS Friday.  Due to the extended dry period that caused early maturity, there were a number of growers in the area starting soybean harvest.  But this year early harvest does not mean big harvest.  For soybeans, rain during the reproductive stages of late summer can mean high yields.  That's what happened in 2016 where we were very dry at the start of summer, but had lots of rain in August.  This lead to average yields in the 80 bushel range.  But not so much this year.  After a dry start we had a dry finish.  

This field has a CEC of 5 and is very sandy.  So it needs rain to do well.  You can see that the beans aren't very big.  But it was an experiment and we will see if we learned anything.  Tim sent this pic.  I don't know what the yields were.
I'm sure many of you follow the United States Drought Monitor.  If you don't, just Google "Drought Monitor" for a map showing drought severity.  In Central Michigan we recently got promoted to light brown or "Moderate Drought".  The map shows a fair amount of drought across the country. Although dry here, I feel bad for Northern Montana and their "Exceptional Drought" rating.  Must be tough to see all that hurricane rain when you have none.
So regardless of conditions, harvest will continue.  (If it's that dry in Iowa and Illinois, shouldn't corn prices be higher?)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Funny Pickles

So I read the newspaper comics.  There, I said it.  Feels good.  But you would too if you saw this one the other day.  Hilarious.  

I'm sure agronomists and chemists from all over were laughing.  (Plus people that actually paid attention in high school chemistry).  While everyone else was scratching their heads.  (FYI for texting dinosaurs: K is short for "Okay", which continues in the strip the next day.)  You can google "Pickles" and it will take you to a site called gocomics.com.  I figured I owed Mr. Crane that since I borrowed his strip.    

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Potatoes Unearthed

So if you were driving by and saw this operation, you would surely think something important was going on.  Well you would be right!  It was potato harvest day at the NCRS.  It is a mult-step operation that requires the help of several of the NCRS's hard working staff.
 Renae drives the digger that lifts the potatoes out of the ground.  (FYI: that's asparagus in the background).
And up the chain they go.  These are 'Snowden' variety potatoes used for making potato chips. Michigan is one of the leading growers of chipping potatoes as well as a top producer of potato chips. One of every four bags of potato chips in the country contain Michigan-grown potatoes.  (I'm so proud). And who doesn't like potato chips?  If you answer "no", then go ahead and leave now.
Jay and Tim B collect the potatoes from the plot in the baskets.
Zouheir is the man in charge, and was seen rushing around to make sure things went right and brings the bags to collect the potatoes.  Slow down Zouheir!  Did I mention that we are experiencing extremely warm weather, and the temperature was over 90?  (Wasn't I just complaining recently about how cold it was?  Well I am always finding new things to complain about.)
Just like any plot harvest, they collect the production for weighing.  In addition, potatoes need to be graded for size which will be done later.  Larger size and uniformity are the goals.
This was a very important experiment testing some of our new products.  So Zouheir will sort out the data and let us know what happened.  This was a very nice looking plot all summer, and the preliminary yield calculations were very good.  Hopefully we will learn something here to serve as a guide for potato growers to produce even more delicious chips.